Scott Murphy Interview

   Among Roger Wilco fans, game designer Scott Murphy needs no introduction. Along with Mark Crowe, Scott was one half of the game-designing duo known as the Two Guys from Andromeda, responsible for Space Quests 1 through 4. Scott later returned to fly solo on Space Quest 6. He is currently hard at work on Space Quest 7, which is sure to be another wonderful addition to this classic series. Recently, I managed to catch up with Scott briefly and we managed to chat a little about life, the universe, and everything -- not to mention Space Quest 7. Here's what he had to say...

Decaffeinated Jedi: So, tell me a little about how you came to be involved with Sierra.

   Scott Murphy: I followed my friend Doug Oldfield here. We were both in the, uh, food service industry, yeah. Doug helped me get my foot, and eventually the rest of my body, in the door. I was cooking at a restaurant down the road and he was cooking at one up the road. His burned down. Anyway, he got this job at Sierra - On-Line Systems then - and brought an Apple computer home and invited me over. Ken was real cool about letting employees do that. I was astounded by what I saw. The adventures are what really got me. Mystery House, Softporn, Wizard and the Princess, the adventure game itself. It was the best thing since red mohawks. Space Invaders and Pacman type games were what people associated computers with back then. Seems like Pong wasn't that old. Later, Doug introduced me to his boss and I eventually got a job distributing Return Merchandise Authorizations, or RMAs, to stores and distributors. It just happened to be in the same room with Customer Support where you spent the day answering game and other software questions on the phone. All you had to do was play all the games. Darn the luck. Well, it had to be done. So I was soon doing that and eventually got to a position to work on the development side of games. Anyway, that was over fourteen years ago and my memory is so foggy I made most of that crap up. (just kidding.)
JM: Did you have any other interesting game ideas before you and Mark Crowe settled on Space Quest?

   Scott: I did want to develop a Space Shuttle adventure game with elements of arcade in the form of movement in space and some other things but Ken quickly moved on to the next topic in that meeting. It might not have sounded that interesting. Things had really begun to change. The Apple was now being supplanted by the PC. There was a lot going through my mind on what we could and couldn't do. Mark and I each had very grand ideas on what kind of action we could pull off in Space Quest 1. The land skimmer sequence we imagined actually wasn't able to be done until the last couple of years. I can't think of much else. here were a lot of fragments of ideas that are now lost in the dark gray of my mind.
JM: What were your major influences for Space Quest?

   Scott: Sci-fi wise it was Ray Bradbury, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Arthur C. Clark and Stanley Kubric. This will sound hokey but I was not the same walking into see 2001: A Space Odyssey as I was walking out. (No, I didn't slip on wet jujubees in the theater and sustain a major head injury.) It changed how I thought about a lot of things. I suppose the most basic influence was my love of the US. space program. One of my early television memories was of watching the view the cameras gave that were set outside the home of John Glenn and his wife. He was up there and she was in the house. (The movie The Right Stuff showed that even. That's all they could show in those days. (Geez, I sound old!) I wanted to be an astronaut all the time I was growing up. I tried to imagine everyday life in space. What happened if everyone lived there, all types of people?
JM: Were there any interesting anecdotes from the production of 'The Sarien Encounter?'

  Scott: Well, the most interesting thing was that we convinced Ken to let us make a game and then we realized we didn't know what we were doing. Oddly, Space Quest 1 came from that. (or maybe that's the weirdest thing?) I'm drawing a blank. Could you repeat the question?
JM: What made you and Mark come up with the idea of becoming the Two Guys from Andromeda? An overpowering urge to wear pig snouts?

  Scott: Somehow, we thought alter egos would be cool. We both had "Two Guys From" stuck in our minds. Mark, being more food oriented, was inspired by Two Guys from Italy, an Italian food restaurant chain here. I was inspired by the place I bought my first tennis racquet. It was a department store. We thought Andromeda seemed to be the most real unreal place we could be from. And of course, we really wanted to have something phallic hanging from our faces.

   We wore all that stuff at CES in Chicago one year. Try imagining yourself in this outfit with the red mohawk and this, er, appendage hanging from your face while attempting to converse with fans and buyers. And it wasn't easy for them. They'd want to talk but they couldn't stay on track sometimes because they couldn't take their eyes of our di... uh, noses.

JM: What made you decide to go with the B-movie look for the VGA remake of SQ1?

   Scott: I actually had little say in that. We were working on SQ4 when that got launched. The VGA art designer wanted an old fashioned space movie look. It sounded good in theory but wasn't executed as was advertised. We were shuttling out art work to Korea back then. (Blame "The Simpsons".) It was interesting. I was told to work on it and have any changes I deemed necessary executed. When I went to them with my problems with the art I was told that ".. we can't change that, anything else?" There were some great intentions behind it but it just didn't work out as well as was intended.
JM: When you replaced Josh Mandel as designer on SQ6, how far along was the game in production?

Hey!   Scott: It was actually very far along. I had been "Creative Consultant" up to that time, making contributions here and there. Josh and the team got a lot done before I was in that designer/writer capacity.

   Actually, Josh was way under-credited for his work. I must admit that I have a lot of blame to take for that. There were circumstances and feelings, both corporate and personal and I am not proud of how I handled the situation. I owe Josh, as well as our fans, a large apology for that. I hope it will be accepted.

JM: Were there ever any jokes that you had to cut from any of the Space Quest games? Anything that the corporate brass said went too far?

  Scott: Mark and I did a pretty good job of reviewing our own work and making appropriate changes whether through adjustment or omission. We always had some really, uh, interesting text in the game during development that we would be careful to remove in the last QA versions. QA made sure to point them out fortunately. There were moans and whines on some things from some people but we ultimately only had to listen to Ken, and when he did have a concern, at least it a discussion. It occurred only a few times which I thought was quite cool on Ken's part. He could've just said "DO IT!" He trusted us for the most part and we were grateful for it. I recall one we lost. He was particularly insistent on us removing something from SQ3. In a room in the junk freighter at the beginning there is a Star Wars-type spacecraft in the lower left. On the wing Mark had sprayed in graffiti style "The Empire Sucks!" I thought this was a great touch. The Empire were the bad guys and it was inoffensive Star Wars humor. Ken really got a twist in his BVD's about that one and it was removed rather quickly. We attempted to change his mind by explaining it all but we lost that one. We certainly weren't knocking Star Wars in that example.
JM: In your expert opinion, what's the best game in the series? Also, what's your favorite game of all-time?

  Scott: Of course, they're all special in their own ways but I'd have to say that 3 and 4 were pretty decent. I suppose I'm a bit partial to three because of our first use of midi music and the fact that we tried to design a game that was challenging and yet the kind of game that perhaps a much larger percentage of players would get to play to the end. We wanted them to see, read, and hear everything. However in 4 and six their was the most excellent satisfaction of having real voices speaking the lines I wrote - especially Gary Owens. He had always been who I imagined saying the narrator lines in my mind way before I had a clue he would actually be doing it. It is so satisfying to hear your writing performed exactly as you imagined it. I was very lucky. Gary is a real pro and a great guy to work with, not to mention an incredibly good sport.
JM: How far along is the SQ7 project at this point in time? Is there a projected release date yet?

  Scott: It's still in the foundation stage. Right now the majority of the people here are working their butts off on projects scheduled to ship this season so it's hard to get some of the help and information one might need. Leslie and I have been working on a couple of things for the new release of The Space Quest Collection due out in August. At the same we are making decisions on which way to head on the game. The ship date is projected for Christmas season of '98.
JM: I talked to Ken Williams in August of 1996 and he told me there were no plans for any future Space Quests. What changed Sierra's mind so quickly about the series?

  Scott: Ken's mind usually changes when he feels the market might be right for something, or dead wrong. Although he has said and continues to say that adventures are dead he also heard a lot to the contrary from fans like the ones who emailed Ken and Craig about Space Quest 7 and Quest for Glory 5. He's also been a fan and supporter of the Space Quest series through the years and that helps to a degree. As far as when Ken's mind changes occur, you just never know what to expect.
JM: Are there any other familiar faces working on the project you could clue us in on?

NEXT!   Scott: Well, there's Leslie Balfour who's face can be seen on the Current Inside Copy, the AVI that was included with the Space Quest Collections. Another is Bill Shockley who is also in the AVI. Both of them are Space Quest 6 veterans. Unfortunately, other projects scheduled for release this year are using all the talent they can get so it will be awhile before we know for sure who else will be working on the game.
JM: Rumor has it a great deal of 3D will be worked into Space Quest 7. Should fans expect Mario-64 or something similar to the 3D used in the upcoming Quest for Glory V: Dragonfire? Also, it has been said that multiplayer options will be included. Are there any plans on how to pull this off within the traditional adventure genre?

  Scott: Yes, we will be having 3D in the game. It won't require 3D accelerator cards however. I know that players have been concerned about that. We're definitely not going to be doing the Mario deal. We are looking for a place somewhere between that and the old adventure. There are a few ways to go. King's Quest 8, Swat 2, and Quest for Glory 5 are all approaching things differently. We're really busting our brains and stuff trying to make sure that Space Quest is still alive and well within the new game engine(s). This has a little to do with some of the balking about what Space Quest 7 is going to be about. One thing that is involved in this planning is to make sure multiplayer capability is there. Yes, we are really straining, or as it is popular to say now, reinventing, the genre to compete in the marketplace and we think it can be done. It's not as simple as Roger seems.
JM: Come on, Scott, you can tell me a few cryptic little clues about the plot of Space Quest 7, can't you?

  Scott: Geez, Jess, get off my back already! You webarazzi guys are getting on my.... uh, huh huh, sorry. I had one of those spells again. I'm all right now. Uh, well, there are definitely some personal issues in this game for Roger to deal with. He has Beatrice Wankmeister, the supposed future mother of his future son, as well as Carmen Santiago, for whom Roger developed a deep affection in SQ6. This could get ugly. And what do we really know about Roger's past - before Space Quest 1? And what moronic wannabe super villain or former foe is going to decide to mess with Roger? (And why do they do that? Isn't Roger like the biggest loser in the universe? Who thinks this crap.... uh, never mind.)
JM: Rumor has it that Roger will be jettisoning either Bea or Stellar in this episode? Any comments there?

  Scott: Yes.
JM: Are there any more Space Quests in you to follow up SQ7? Any other projects you're considering? One wild rumor suggested a Quake/Duke Nukem-esque Roger Wilco action game...

  Scott: I'm not sure about that one. Roger's not a fighter, he's a...., uh, well he's not a fighter except when he has to be. He did kick Elmo Pugg's ass in Nukem' Duke'em robots in Space Quest 3 so he is capable of it. Roger's never been what you would call overly "motivated" I guess. Only time will tell.
JM: Do you spend much time on the Web? Have you had a chance to check out Roger's cult following on the Internet? If so, what do you think of the virtual phenomenon?

  Scott: My web time seems to be climbing as the weeks and days go by. I have toured many Space Quest websites in the last six months or so. I am absolutely astounded! I am amazed at what you all have done. The first time I realized I was even mentioned out there was when I was visiting my little sister in Florida in May of '96. She asked me if I knew I was on the internet and I told her no. She fired her computer up, typed in my name and there I was. It was positively weird. It still seems very surreal to me. On the other hand, I was glad to finally find my people! It was almost like an electronic version of Roots. I knew you all were all out there somewhere.
JM: What's the one thing about Scott Murphy that would shock and/or surprise the world?

  Scott: I don't own any gerbils and really don't think Kathy Lee Gifford is a babe.

   What? The truth? Seriously? Oh, well then, I own a John Denver CD and I have a 'physical thing' for Hillary Clinton. There, are you happy now, Jess? (geez)

JM: Thank you very much for your time! Any parting words for the fans?
  Scott: First, I want to thank you, Jess, for allowing me to come on here and humiliate myself in front of thousands of people. Oh, and also for your excellent work on this website and your influence on others. Your fellow SQ webmasters hold you in high regard and we are really flattered to be a part of why these sites exist. You people are great.

   For the fans, thank you so much for your support and enthusiasm through out the years and sequels. And thanks for those emails to our bosses. Your enjoyment of our work is quite a buzz for us. It's exactly what Mark Crowe and I hoped would happen way back when.

   Thanks again, Jess. Now let me get back to work and act like I'm doing something, okay?

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